Pubdate: Sat, 13 Jan 2018
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2018 Times Colonist
Author: Les Leyne
Page: A16


Less that six months before the start of the legal marijuana era
begins, here's what the B.C. government has decided when it comes to
how to handle it:

* The minimum age for consumption and possession will be

* Wholesales distribution will be handled by the B.C. Liquor
Distribution Branch,

* Retail sales will go through some mix of public and private

There's a bit more to this than just those items.

B.C. and other provinces have also succeeded in budging the federal
government off its original offer of a 50-50 sharing of cannabis tax
revenues. It's going to be 75 per cent to the provinces, and Ottawa's
share is capped at $100 million a year. That suggests that the federal
government won't be making much money off this change, not that it
expected much, given the new costs to be incurred. Whether the
provinces can turn a buck from the new revenue stream remains to be
seen, since they'll bear most of the new costs.

Also pinned down is the tax rate, a maximum of $1 a gram or 10 per
cent of the retail price, whichever is higher.

The next big item on the to-do list is to decide what the new retail
scene will look like. Standalone new government stores, or new
sections in liquor stores? Drugstores, or purely cannabis boutiques?

More news on that front was promised late last year to arrive in early

The key decisions still to come will be informed by the views gathered
from thousands of people last year. That consultation showed how much
work there is left to do, as it raised dozens of issues. The calendar
shows how little time is left. The term "mad scramble" comes to mind.

A host of laws have to be amended before July, and they have to
slotted into a legislative agenda that is already filling up. And new
regulations will flow from most of the new laws.

B.C. has a priority list for how it intends to spend whatever cannabis
revenue it gets, and it suggests that most of the money will go to law
enforcement in some fashion. The stated priorities are to protect
kids, emphasize health and wellness, educate drivers, keep the
criminal element out of cannabis and ensure customers get a safe product.

"Keep the criminal element out" is an amusing priority at this late
date, given that it has owned and operated the current booming
business for decades. The whole thrust of legalization was to achieve
that goal, but it isn't out of the question that the "criminal
element" will just convert to the new regime and carry on. Look at the
history of the liquor industry.

The retail price looks to be largely in government's hands, as it will
be controlling the wholesale end. The provincial government directly
and indirectly sets the price of liquor, and marijuana is being
handled in a similar fashion. Also up in the air are the price
variations for all the different strains of marijuana.

Knitting together the current chaotic mix of medical-marijuana
dispensaries, underground retail shops, grey-market outfits and the
traditional criminal element is going to make for a hectic rollout.

Adding to the mix are all the interests that municipal governments
bring to the table. They'll be the ones fielding many of the
complaints about second-hand smoke, smoking in public and growing more
than the specified number of plants.

The consultation round drew 48,000 comments, and people generally
seemed to want more of everything when it comes to enforcement,
education and response. That makes for a lot of adaptation on a lot of
different fronts.

Just So You Know: Readers are invited to the annual toast to the memory 
of Sir Winston Churchill at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 21, at the tree he 
planted in Beacon Hill Park. Hardy Churchillians have gathered there, 
near the foot of Quadra Street, for years to remember him near the 
anniversary of his death. There will be stirring speeches, fond 
reminiscences and a free raffle of Churchill books. If you liked Darkest 
Hour, you'll love this toast.
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